Friday, June 01, 2007

Hong Kong Sumo

I went to Cityplaza again to check out more of their "Japan festival".

But if you ask me, every day in HK is a Japan festival, since everyone there wants to be Japanese; rather than adopting English names, many girls have opted for "Yuki" or "Rumiko". Also, HK fashion is to Japanese fashion as the Canadian economy is to US economy - whatever happens in the US, or whatever the Fed does with interest rates, Canada will follow suit a month or so later. Whatever. Not even adopting a Japanese name or dressing like the Japanese would save them from being exposed as impostors with blank expressions, when I ask them for directions in Japanese. As part of this festival, they've managed to bring in a sumo stable from Japan to do a demonstration, albeit not as traditional and sacred without all the Shinto stuff.

Nevertheless, it was an eye-opening experience for all the Hongers there, as those among them who know the most about sumo still probably think of them as a bunch of obese guys shoving each other around. The crowd erupted into a deafening waaaaaaaahhhh upon witnessing the speed and agility of the behemoths on the stage - they were even doing the freakin' splits! (But then again, even seeing someone execute a successful parallel park would make Hongers go if they just did a triple flaming backflip through a flaming hoop or something.)

After the demonstration, they had Miss Iwate in her kimono (or some other prefecture, I don't remember) sing for everyone. I suppose she was pretty, but if she dyed her hair, dressed in regular clothes and kept quiet, she'd blend in with everyone else.

Flattering comment or not, you be the judge.

Sumo Demo At Tai Koo Cityplaza

Thursday, May 31, 2007

HK Day One

I awoke to an overcast, yet visibly bright day.

It's cool to arrive somewhere that you've either never been, or have not been in a long time, under the dark cover of night, then have everything unveiled to you the next morning. Such was the case, as I haven't been to HK in six and a half years. Aside from some visibly new developments, things haven't really changed that much.

Hong Kong is such a fast-moving city that it doesn't even let people sit down for free. The whole metropolis is one giant shopping mall - without a single bench or chair for its shoppers. That's because if you're sitting down, you're not shopping. If you're not shopping, you're a liability to Hong Kong's economy and therefore, you are a piece of shit. You can try to sit on the floor of a shopping mall if you're desperate for a break, but eventually, a security guard will come and tell you to fuck off because of the piece of fly-orbited excrement that you are. The only way you can legitimately sit down in a HK shopping facility is if you're at a restaurant, an overpriced cafe, or the toilet. Wait, forget the latter, as they still use kneecap-popping squat toilets.

That being said, if you're an avid world shopper who detests places with cultural and historical value because they take up space that would otherwise have been a shopping center, then you'll wonder if your plane had just crashed and you've landed in heaven instead.

Thus, I spent the first day Hong Kong going to Cityplaza mall in Tai Koo with my aunt, one subway station (or 15 min. walk) away. I didn't have anything to buy in particular, since nearly everything on my shopping list needs to be acquired in Japan - most are for me and the others in my iaido club. So today was just basically looking around.

Like any shopping mall, there usually is some themed event going on that distracts people from realizing that the crap that they are buying is exactly the same as that day the year before. This time, the theme was Japan and its cherry blossoms. Interested in seeing how HK people interpret Japan (since most of them want to be Japanese anyway - I'm sure I'll elaborate later), I checked out their plaza stage event schedule. There were several traditional dances and koto drum performances listed, but what caught my eye was a sumo demonstration going on tomorrow. I'm definitely going to check that out!

I hope it's the real thing instead of some tournament with those stupid and tacky padded and velcro-fastened vinyl suits, complete with culturally inaccurate hair helmets, that you rent for a birthday party or for crushing your neighbor's pets.

Other than that, the only thing of note in the mall was a freakin' skate rink - something Canadians probably only see at West Edmonton Mall. The people skating there were actually really good, and it's nice to see them dedicated to something other than figuring out ways to financially drain themselves. There were also these badass shirts that I saw at a department store, but those could wait until I come back from Japan after acquiring the more important things on my list.

I met with my aunt at our designated meeting point, and she took me for a quick lunch at some fast food joint. Other than unadulterated shopping with abandon, there is another aspect of Hong Kong which can't be beat - the fast food. Their idea of fast food is probably our idea of a five star meal. Of course, there's always the artery-clogging Western chains like McDick's and KFC that managed to expand their franchises into the rest of the world, regardless of differences in culture and market. But as McDs' are open 24/7, they serve as much as a place to crash and await the reopening of the transit system after a late night out (in which case we call those people "McRefugees"), as they serve as a place to wreak havoc on your circulatory system.

Café de Coral, Maxim, and Fairwood are the three major HK fast food chains that serve really good food. In fact, I'd say the quality of the food is no worse than the food you'd get at a good sit-down-dining restaurant. Only the packaging looks unappealing, but it's necessary to efficiently serve such an overwhelming volume of customers; you would usually find your baked pork chop on rice in a foil container, not unlike the kind you get for take-out Chinese food. But if you're like me, who gives a rat's ass if the food is good and won't make you sick or die? (Incidentally, if you've ever seen the back of the kitchen of any Chinese restaurant, you'll wonder if you've just received a rat's your food.)

Dinner was much more festive, as my aunt and uncle took me for a birthday meal at a high end restaurant, with its complement of aquarium-size fish tanks where the customers can witness the freshness and vivacity of the sea animals condemned for consumption. Although the crabs and lobsters were pretty big, but the pièce de résistance is a giant bass that's bigger than most of the tables there - the poor thing would have to be eaten in stages. For being taken to such a meal, I promised my uncle I'd take him somewhere if he ever came to Vancouver on one of his business trips. It was a lavish meal, and the way the Chinese prepare seafood is one of the most euphoric of culinary experiences and is unforgettable.

Provided that you forget about the back kitchen as aforementioned.

View From My Aunt's Apartment
My first look outside my aunt's window

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Four Days In HK...And Into A Long, Anticipated Vacation

It has finally come to this.

I've been planning this two-month summer vacation to kick off my final summer before work starts. I'll spend the first few days in HK to submit my application for my ID card. While that is being processed, I'll spend a month in Japan. After that, the application should be processed, and I'll spend the rest of the time in HK getting the ID card done and finally for some well-earned dicking around. It took me months to put together the application (with my parents producing the necessary documents), get the tickets, save up the funds, and to arrange the accommodations in Tokyo.

I was surprised that I had no trouble sleeping the night before, given the level of excitement that had been culminating over those past months. I woke up as usual, and my uncle came and picked me up to go. We had some classy Shanghai food in Richmond, and before I knew it, I'm past all those post-9/11 security checks and am sitting down at the waiting area in front of the gate.

I wanted to use my laptop and kill time on the internets, but the shitty battery doesn't even have enough lifespan to boot the damn thing. So it was back to the Stone Age and entertaining myself with less technologically advanced means - Mad and Maxim magazine. To give some sort of indication that I have at least a trace degree of sophistication to the other passengers, I bough Popular Science and Time magazine as well. I considered buying some of the "top-rack" magazines, but finally decided to hang on to my porn budget until I reach overseas, so I can collect them for...uh...cultural studies. Besides, the above mags were more than enough to kill the hour before boarding.

Just as I was about to unwrap and savour Maxim's annual 100 Hottest Girls edition, the announcement came for my ticket group to board the plane. Now my usual luck when it comes to co-passengers is that I end up with a guy who won't take a bath, stop eating, and/or shut up. But this time, not only was there no one beside me, but I also got the frontmost row in the plebian section. That way I don't have to deal with some asshole who suddenly tilts his/her seat all the way back while I'm eating or reading, thereby winding me in the gut with my book/dinner.

Unfortunately, like most things, this was too good to be true. I was awakened from my state of bliss by the stewardess, who introduced me to a gentleman whose in-seat video console wasn't working. This guy's arms were so God-mocked hairy that although his arms were courteously taking up only half the armrest, his arm hairs took up the other half. If his arm ever hogged the entire armrest, I would have no escape from his hair. I thought maybe I'll amuse myself during the long flight by shaving an "Asian tattoo" into his arms, or to shave them completely and make little Chia pets with his hairs while he's asleep. Hirsute limbs aside, the guy was well-behaved and practiced decent personal hygiene, so my grievances shall end here.

Same couldn't be said about this little shit a few rows behind me that wailed his/her way all the way across the Pacific. As I said before, a crying baby is to be expected on an airplane, but one who has the stamina to bawl for almost 13 hours must surely be the illegitimate spawn of Satan. One or these days, I've got to patent a soundproof, fully-breatheable (or maybe not...I'm tempted...) "Baby Hood™". Hell, I don't care if anyone steals my idea - someone's got to do us all a freakin' service. And while you're at it, make a "Pet Hood™" and a "Chinese Mother-If-You're-Still-Single-At-30-Years-Old Hood™" too.

The long trans-continental ordeal concluded, I made my way through Hong Kong International Airport. Even after almost five years, I still managed to find my way through the place to the rapid train that will take me from the airport to Central Hong Kong. The cool part about arriving during the nighttime is that most of the sights are still shrouded in darkness, so when the morning comes, you are greeted with a surprise when the place is laid out in the open, and you try to retrace where you passed the previous night.

I finally arrived at my aunt's place where I'll be staying for the next few days before leaving for Japan. It is a complex of six really tall 72-story apartment buildings. Well, not exactly 72 stories, since Chinese people are so superstitious that they skip over every number with a 4 in it (except all the numbers in the 40's besides 44, since skipping nine levels would be going too far), because the number is almost homonymous with the Chinese word for "death". Yeah, and you thought apartment buildings in every Western country are being silly for not having a 13th floor. I never bothered to understand Chinese or any other phoenetically-based superstitions. If words are a human contrivance, and that the phoenetics of words can directly influence the causality of events in the world, does that mean that humans, through their verbal pronunciation, can directly control everything that happens around them? Hell, no! To believe in such nonsense would really be an act of hubris on the part of humanity.

Enough digression, back to the apartment complex. There are many families from Japan and Korea, probably because the dads have been stationed here in HK for work. Regardless of nationality, most of the families I saw in the common area are follwed by a Filipino domestic servant carrying their luggage or kids. Here in HK, many Filipinos may take up jobs here as servants, but on Sundays when they all get the day off, Filipinos rule Central HK, camping out all over the streets to lounge off the day by eating, listening to music, and playing cards.

My aunt's apartment is really small, and the room in which I will be staying even smaller. It's almost as small as a walk-in closet. Nevertheless, this is a very nice apartment for HK. There is a bunk where my cousins used to sleep, but they have long since moved to Toronto.

After a long day of travel (and mentally accumulated ranting, as you may have noticed), I passed out like a log.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Iaido Test

It's been a year since I've started iaido.

Now a seminar will be held in Victoria, and a lot of high-ranking sensei's will be there from the headquarters in Japan. The highlight of that seminar is the examinations at the end, and I will be taking the test to attain my 1st dan ranking (most people call this 1st degree black belt if there was a belt ranking system).

I've been preparing all year for this, and have practised really hard. Although there are set techniques and we do not fight, each technique requires precision, proper stature, and full control. I don't think my sensei would've approved me taking the exam if it wasn't for my efforts.

I also haven't been going to Victoria in a long time. A long time as in 10 years. This will be a fun road trip, and the drive there wouldn't be as boring as the one to the Vernon seminar (thank God for sunflower seeds). I also wondered how much Victoria has changed over the past decade, as a whole bunch of people trapped in an island would surely get bored and try to make life more exciting. Yeah sure, they have a ferry to the Lower Mainland, which is how I'm incidentally going to get there, but when you have to pay the exhorbitant fares to get your car across, you're as good as trapped.

While parked in the waiting lot for our ferry, we had a nice tailgate party. One of the people in my club brought out some tea and Japanese-style snacks. It was a beautiful day to be close to the water and everything seemed perfect. Too perfect.

When we finally got into the ferry, it was already packed, with the queue to the buffet already encircling the entire cabin area. All waiting to get fat on food that'll make you feel seasick at ridiculous prices. The ride was fairly smooth, with a little bit of rocking. I was disappointed not seeing any orcas or sea lions out into the distance. Poor things probably have been run over enough times to know that it's best to stay away.

After making it to our hotel rooms, we looked around the immediate area, but there wasn't anything much except for a strip mall. We found a White Spot, but got fairly ripped off at the hors d'oeuvre sized portions. At least there was a liquor store so we can get drunk in our hotel rooms.

The next day was the first day of the seminar. All the workshops took place at the gym complex in the University of Victoria except for the last day, which is at a community gym/swimming pool facility closer towards the ferry terminal.

I was surprised at the sheer number of wild hares hopping around the UVic campus. At least if the apocalypse occurs and everyone is trapped on campus, no one will probably ever starve. I've always wondered what rabbit meat tastes like. Probably like chicken, only a little gamier.

The next few days was spent very productively at the workshops. I was glad I didn't have any bloody accidents like last time. We went over all the techniques that I've learned in the past year, with meticulous detail. You'd have to be pretty strict if you want to preserve a martial art that's been around for more than 500 years, and especially if that martial art is being exported far beyond its provenance.

Then the time for examinations came.

It consists of a written component, and then a demonstration component where I have to demonstrate four techniques which I've selected. To be more exact, the actual examination occurs throughout the seminar, as they judge your capability, attitude, and character throughout the weekend; the demonstration is more of a ceremonial role.

I was pretty nervous, but I was more determined not to screw this up. I've failed a 2nd dan kendo exam before, and only because I fucked up the technical demonstration by stepping back with the wrong foot. I know how horrible it felt to fail, so I wasn't going to let it happen again...

...and so I passed. I was very pleased, and so was my sensei and all the senpai's who put in all that time to teach me over the past year. We were talking about it all the way out from Victoria.

The trip back was met with the much more urgency, as we almost did not make it into the last ferry. Being a Sunday evening, everyone was in a rush to leave the godforsaken island to go home for work the next day.

In the ferry, we were met with the same line of the gluttonous, so once again, it was to hell with the buffet. Instead, there was plenty of room in the coffee lounge. For $5, we had all the hot beverages, fresh fruits, and cheese that we could eat. And the chairs were nicer an we had a better view of the scenery, not only because of location but also because the sights were not obstructed with fat people trying to stuff their faces.

I had so much coffee that I could've just jumped overboard astern and paddled the ferry across the Juan de Fuca Strait with the engines inoperative. The only reservation I had from doing so was the fact that this would be a purely voluntary effort, and I would therefore be left without financial compensation for my caffeine-fueled services. Well, that and my abhorrence to providing anything ad gratis to BC Ferries, which is on the contrary gouging anyone on wheels with its exhorbitant fares.

So all in all, it was a very nice trip. In fact, the only heartbreak throughout the whole trip was when my senpai borrowed a $20 bill from me in the car, only to allow it to blow out the open back window because he didn't hang on to it.

As of now, he still owes me that 20 bucks.

Iaido Test

Friday, May 18, 2007

Blockbusting Action Bus

I was on the bus and a couple of punks stepped in from a stop.

No, I don't mean "punks" as in the skateboarding, weed inhaling genre that listen to Bad Religion, MXPX, The Ramones, or whatever. I mean "punks" as in those who not only have absolutely no worth in life, but also degrade the community with their very presence because they feel entitled to do so after their parents fueled their teen angst with shit like "rules" and "responsibilities" - to sum it up, the floating turds in the jacuzzi spa of humanity.

So since these turds didn't pony up any cash, the bus driver asked them to show their bus passes. The quickly flash a video rental coupon or something in a sad effort to fake a bus pass, then quickly went down the bus aisle. You know these punks are trouble when one of them looked like he just got his ass kicked. The driver yells back at them to go back up to the front and pay up, or get out. The punks opted for the latter and proceeded back to the front exit.

Suddenly, one of them turned around and spat on the driver, then they both took off. What a pathetic attempt at being a badass, by copying what another passenger did in a previous incident which landed the news. The bus driver chased after them. Although he was not allowed to leave the bus running and unattended, if I were in his position, I wouldn't let those two little shits get away with it either. Unfortunately, with a sufficient head start, it looked like those two will get away with it...

...until a cement truck driver passing by, who somehow managed to see all the action, pulled over up ahead. What I saw next really made my day. The cement truck driver takes a dive out of his vehicle and spear tackles the punk that spat on the bus driver, nearly cutting him in half!! Everyone in my bus cheered! He kept the little miscreant pinned to the curbside lawn, while the other punk made a pathetic attemt to free his accomplice by screaming hollow threats at the cement truck driver, until the police came and hauled the two away to a place where they won't pose a nuisance anytime soon.

I made sure I issued a consolatory remark to the driver before I got off, seeing how he had a tough day. Take heed, punks. Postal workers are no longer the only public employees you don't want to piss off.

Bus Punks Busted

P.S.Sadly, this is a futile message because this blog radiates with so much bushido virtue power that it will make any punks' (and hippies') eyeballs explode upon sight.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Back From Oz

I'm back from my brother's graduation from vet school at Kansas State University.

The campus is located in this little college town in Kansas called Manhattan, because this little rural patch of obscure land uncannily resembles the bustling concrete district in New York, and also probably because this is a great way to deceive tourists to come to this town. On the bright side, there is plenty of peace and quite here, so long as you avoid the student residence neighborhoods, the pub district, or the campus altogether. Of course I can fit a five-day, four-night trip into one post, because there is really nothing much to do there.

Me and my parents met up with my brother at Kansas City, which is really located in the neighboring state of Missouri, because other than naming small towns after major cities and districts, there really isn't enough geographic ambiguity in this region to generate the confusion that makes the National Geography Contest interesting.

After an hours-long drive to Manhattan, we made it to our hotel.

The next morning, we went to my brother's apartment.

There were boxes and bags all over the place because he was moving out and into our house. Since airplanes still don't let you check in your car with your luggage, he was planning to make a road trip all the way up to Vancouver with his girlfriend, which was also how he was going to celebrate his graduation.

Most importantly, we were introduced to his cat Oliver, which we were charged with bringing with us on our flight because a long road trip would be hell on the poor animal. Fortunately, my brother could easily procure from his vet school all necessary documentation to allow us to bring Oliver home on board the plane. Furthermore, he had one of the vets prescribe some pills for the cat so that he mellows out on the plane. I gingerly stashed a few for myself. Oliver is much slimmer and better-behaved than Fat Bitch back home, and far more active and friendly. I immediately took a liking on the cat.

Introducing Oliver

My brother also proudly showed off his Wii and Playstation 3, both of which probably took him a day of waiting in line at Wal-Mart in the company of the socially inept. The graphics on the PS3 were impressive, but the overall gaming experience was not much different than the PS2. The Wii, however, was something entirely new and fun, and a good indication that Nintendo is about to steal a big chunk of Sony's market share.

I considered strapping the player 2 controller on the cat and see how that would further improve my gaming experience when he runs around freaking out.

The day for the graduation ceremony finally arrived.

My brother was definitely agog to see the culmination of years of hard work, but didn't do a very good job coolly hiding it with an attitude of indifference. The theatre for the ceremonies was packed with family, all eagerly waiting for their kin's name to be called out. Everyone was quietly listening, with the occasional cheer when someone hears the name of their friend and/or family member. Well, that and the incessant, tympanically devastating bawling from what appears to be a nursery in the back rows.

Nevertheless, I wasn't surprised. When you have more than 200 people gathered in any venue, chances are good that at least one of them is a baby. Babies cry over all matters severe or menial, such as lack of milk (or more like the lack of the warm comfort of the mother's breast to satisfy their Oedipal urges), soiled diapers, the need for diversion with toys, unfamiliar environment, the big scary head of some creepy stranger making a pathetic attemt to amuse them, or the unsupervised pitbull gnawing on their faces.

Therefore, the question is not whether there will be a crying baby, but how long the babies cry. The proper metric is the percentage of total ceremony, movie, or trip time, rather than number of minutes spent crying. Nevertheless, the only thought that could divert my mind from contemplating infanticide was the satisfaction that someday, those babies will grow up to have one or more babies of their own, thereby depriving them of sleep and peace with more crying. Yes, just a sliver of hope splintered from the Wheel of Kharma when it hits a speed bump.

In the evening, me and my brother's friend's families went to a celebratory feast at, of all places in Kansas, a Korean restaurant. I had no idea what a Korean family is doing in this state; even if they are stauchly mea culpa Catholic like many Koreans, this region of the US is not a place for Catholicism, despite being called the Bible Belt. I think I overheard from the parents' discussion that some Korean lady married one of the servicemen from the nearby air force base, and this her family that she managed to bring over.
The food was pretty good, and I could be pretty damn sure that I just had authentic Korean home cooking. The evening concluded with a dessert trip to Baskin-Robbins.

Aaahh, 31 ways to deliciously widen your ass...

Manhattan, Kansas

The day to go home had finally arrived.

Time sure flies when you're having fun. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case, as small rural towns are apprarently surrounded by temporal anomalies that makes time stop. After going over all the cat's vaccination and physical examination documents with us, my brother stuffed his beloved drugged-up feline into the kitty tote with some toys and a blanket.

When we finally made it to the airport, we said our goodbyes to my brother and went in. After examining the documentation, the check-in and security staff let us and the cat through with little trouble. So far so good...until I got on the plane.

Once again, as discussed above, I had to spend most of my flight with a crying baby across the aisle from me. As if that wasn't enough to torture the passengers, airlines have the gall to force its passengers to sit through chick flicks. I've enough to worry about sitting for hours in a steel tube hurtling at near supersonic velocity at an altitude incapable of sustaining life, than to have to sit through propaganda made to cultivate a puppyishly and unrealistically naive view of relationships in women as a great disservice to the male gender (or "romantic comedies" for short).
My emotional scar resumé from such meaningless crap include Never Been Kissed, Forces Of Nature, Win A Date With Tad Hamilton!, and...oh God help me...The Wedding Planner.

This time, the emasculatory media du jour was Music And Lyrics, starring Hugh Grand and Drew Barrymore. Although it did well to incorporate fun music, like all romantic comedies, the cast and premise may change, but the plot always remains the same - guy meets girl, they bond, some major conflict drives them apart, they somehow get back together to end the movie with a kiss and a tampon commercial.

Fortunately, I do have remedial measures against such a terrible ordeal in aviation - I take off the headphones and try to imagine what the characters would be saying. Thus, a conversation in my ad-libbed version of Music And Lyrics would be something like this:

Hugh Grant's Character: Shall I partake in nuzzling my head betwixt your lusciously bewitching mammaries?

Drew Barrymore's Character: Methinks not. My bosom is to avail not but for the affections of my lesbian companion.

Hugh Grant's Character: Ah, woe is me! O love is save a crimsom dagger to be plunged into the fathoms of a desperately beating heart of lust! Let's go watch nude mud wrestling and solicit the kindness of the county brothel instead.

Because Hugh Grant is British, I decided to give it a bit of Shakespeare's Elizabethan air for the sake of cultural enrichment.

Throughtout the flight, my poor Dad was unwell with airsickness, but would've been alright had the plane not passed through a storm front. Near the end of the trip, he suddenly puked all over the place, the barf bag inconveniently tucked into the seat pocket, so close, yet so far. The cat, however, looked on with drug-induced(?) indifference. My mom asked if he was alright, then chastised him for not heeding her warnings when he downed that greasy burger before the flight. He would eventually fill two plastic bags with his gastric contents. Ironically, we were so worried about the condition of the cat throughout the flight, but in the end, the cat held out far better than Dad. Maybe we should've given Dad the same drugs we gave the cat.

If there is ever a next time that my family goes to Kansas, it's best that my Dad come home in ruby slippers instead.

Oliver Ready For The Plane

Monday, April 30, 2007

Escape From St. Andy's

This was it, Move Out Day.

It only seemed like yesterday that I first moved in. Of course, it always seems like yesterday when you're only thinking of Point A and Point B, and disregard everything in between. Yesterday was an all-out cleaning day, a desperate fight to reverse a whole year of passive littering.

Being the only vacant slot left on the cleaning roster, I was in charge of carpet, walls, and furniture. I thought I lucked out since I didn't have to do the bathroom, nor the kitchen, which none of it is my mess because I always clean up after myself there. Perhaps most ominous is the refrigerator, whose contents have seen the beginning of time. Of particular infamy is the vegetable crisper, whose contents are anything but crisp, but more like a primordial soup. Had the fridge not been cold, I'm sure several new species of multicellular life forms would emerge from there. I thought that was the worst part of cleaning...

...until I started work on the living room sofas. The cushions are always cleaner-side-up, but in this case, they're both equally horrible. I had to scrub off what must surely be cum stains from one cushion; something this tenacious can only be issued forth from a man - only I'm not that man, because I don't really get that lucky. Oh God, I'm sure an entire season of CSI can be based on these cushions alone.

There is, however, something that I DID contribute to in the living room, and that was the Recyclables Mountain, which I took it upon myself to move. That's probably because I almost never cook, but rather reheat things from cans and the like. Carrying a huge garbage bag full of plastic milk bottles with caps intact, I was horribly tempted to stuff it into the already-full trash compactor, just for the euphoria of hearing them explode with an acoustic experience probably reminiscent of fireworks, or the wringing of bubble wrap of an amplitude multiplied by a factor of 100,000.

Sadly, the hippy inside of me told me to put the bag of bottles next to the already-full recycling bin instead. Dammit. We all have some hippy inside each and every one of us, and it is up to ourselves to fight our inner hippies. Otherwise, every country in the world will register a negative gross national product. I have failed and now I'm ashamed.

Among other treasures left behind in my living room are a tall cylindrical traffic pylon, and a roadwork in progress sign with a 30km/h speed limit on the bottom. They've been here all along, so some drunkass predecessor to the suite must've "borrowed" them while stumbling home through a construction site. ("Aaaah dunno, they just follllowed me hoooooome! *HICCUP*")

The best course of action was to leave them at a nearby construction site and hope that the work crew will adopt them, but once again, I was tempted to use the legally-mandated power vested in these relics to my amusement. After all, wherever I place that sign, traffic will be forced to slow down considerably, so the best road would probably be a high-traffic area like Westbrook Mall. Fuck you, Inner Hippie! I won't yield to you this time!!! Screw it, these things are just too heavy to carry that far...but the feeling of power in my hands is just too overwhelming...arrrgh, but somewhere there is probably an embattled construction worker out there wondering why the hell are cars flying past him at 100km/h. And so ends my internal struggle.

Having left these artifacts at the construction site next door last night, where they can find a new home with a loving family, there was nothing left in the living room of concern. This only leaves the walls and my bedroom. Even though I began the cleaning up process weeks ago, my room still required a painstaking weekend to clean up; the walls weren't too bad, although I was sure they made the walls white to make he cleaning experience miserable.

So having finally done cleaning, it was finally time to get the community coordinator to check my work. He's an alright guy, but seeing how his room is CONSTANTLY spotless, one can only imagine that his idea of socially interacting with others consists of wiping the furniture. In other words, I expected the comco's inspection to be a nightmare since he would probably hold me to the same exact standards of cleanliness that he instills in his own room.

It turned out not to be that bad - other than a few small things he wanted me to fix, like the dust on the blind slats, he was okay with my room. Finally finishing off the work and getting a pass, I was finally free to go.

With my vehicle loaded up, I headed off to a temporary future of living under the dominating eyes of my parents.

My loaded SUV
Arthur waiting for me to get into the packed car and drive.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Vernon Shall Taste My Cold Steel

I'm back from a weekend iaido seminar at Vernon.

They certainly picked the right venue - there is nothing else to do in that town that would distract our focus from training, other than winery tours. And we all knew that if we engaged in that activity, it would quickly degenerate into a winery crawl, and it would certainly look bad the morning after when we have to attend workshops instructed by the head of the Canadian Iaido Association. Therefore, such attempts to appease our oenophilia are out of the question. (As a compromise, we opted to knock back beers before bedtime and watch a hilarious satire on the American dystopia called Idiocracy instead.)

I've been practicing iaido for almost a year now. What started out as merely something to complement my kendo has become a deeper look into what it's like to be a samurai. Nevertheless, no matter how much I train, I don't think I can ever be a samurai. It's not because there is too little to associate with present culture and society, but rather because the whole self-disembowelment-upon-command thing doesn't really float well with me. You've probably heard of it as seppuku or hara-kiri. If my boss ever commands me to make a wide U-shaped cut across my abdomen so that my intestines spill out, and then wait for my best friend to behead me as a coup de grâce, I'd cut him down before he is able to finish his sentence.

That, however, doesn't put me down in the bottom of those idiots who watch Highlander movies and think they are the shit when it comes to samurai expertise. For those of you unfamiliar with the movie (and TV show) franchise, the premise is that for centuries, our world has been populated by immortals who can only be killed by beheading, and who must fight with wallhangers until only one is left standing victorious. That One shall receive The Ultimate Prize - a $2 gift certificate to Dairy Queen.

So here I was in Vernon as part of my efforts not to fall into the above category of ignorant fools. Even though we practice with iaito, unsharpened swords not fit for cutting, it can still be dangerous because the tips are still very pointy. I was practicing with my senpai's sword, which has the distinction of not only being the heaviest sword in our class, but also having the blade with the longest tip, which made sheathing it a bitch.

One technique involved turning around and thrusting the blade behind me. Since I had to hold the sword with one hand for this technique, I got careless and allowed weight to catch me off-guard, so that the tip of the blade fell abruptly dropped mid-thrust, and would've went through my thumb had the phalangeal bone not stopped it. It was quite a gusher, and I compressed the wound with a cold wet paper towel for some time before giving up and putting a bandage over it anyway to allow it to clot on its own.

This wasn't the first time this sword tasted my blood, but it was certainly the first time it had such a big drink. Thus, besides improving my iaido skills with more intensive training than usual, this seminar was beneficial towards furthering my study of the samurai in that I have learned to somewhat bleed like one.

If not that, then I've become closer towards perhaps someday getting $2 off my strawberry sundae.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

ACF After-Aftermath

This time, I was awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of heaving from the bathroom.

Surprise, surprise. My roommate drank too much during the Arts County Fair. I don't understand how people can lack so much restraint as to drink their way to nausea. Isn't the feeling of sickness sufficient negative feedback to tell them to stop? I guess when you're that drunk, not even getting a rusty vinegar-coated screwdriver stuck into your eyeball is sufficient negative feedback.

I've only gone as far as an unpleasant throbbing hangover on a few occasions. The only times I've ever engaged in alcohol-related vomiting was when I was tactfully forced to down a tumbler full of straight vodka for a Russian brother, and when I was stupid enough to down a foot-long cheesesteak into a stomach already occupied with copious amounts of cocktails.

The sound of the shower running marked the reprieve. However, I nearly slipped on the bathroom floor this morning. Can't he dry his feet so he doesn't leave the bathroom like a lake? All you have to do is stand on one foot, hold both ends of your towel, and run the towel across the sole of your foot in the same motion that you use to dry the unreachable parts of your back. Oh wait, if that drunk fool could stand on one foot, he'd probably also be able to pass a sobriety test to avoid being busted for DUI. Worst of all, I was revolted at the sight of dried puke on the toilet, caked on the inner surface of the bowl and under the seat to greet my ass the next morning.

But then again, my roommates are disgusting enough to bring food into the toilet in one form or another.

Friday, April 13, 2007

ACF Aftermath

I was woken up by cheering from atop of Gage Towers this morning.

I recognized that resonance of merry inebriated mirth, but was surprised it was so loud that it came all the way from Gage. I was even more surprised that the hoopla came so early in the day, when everyone is supposed to be at school.

Then the epiphany dawned upon me that today there is no school because it's he annual Arts County Fair, a huge outdoor concert held at the Thunderbird Stadium featuring homegrown bands and alcohol. Lots of it. As a regular student, I would have had this day marked on my calendar the moment the date was announced, but since my undertgrad days are long gone, it's just not that exciting anymore because I've done it all.

Besides, having names such as Pride Tiger and DJmy!gay!husband! in the performance lineup doesn't really give me much further incentive to go.

Besides the concert itself, this event is marked with the monopolization of alcohol sales by the sponsor brewery, whose product tastes suitably watered-down for a sports stadium venue. This has in turn brought out the creativity of the students towards, shall we say, the breaking of that monopoly.

My friends usually just put a small hole in a juice box or open the box along one of its seams, drain the juice out, and replace the contents with their favorite alcoholic beverage before resealing the box. After all, since non-alcoholic drinks are not prohibited, the security at the gate would not ask you to open your juice to check.

However, I've heard that some people go as far as sneaking into the stadium in the middle of the night, shortly before the event, and digging a small hole in the hills surrounding the field, burying their alcohol, then covering it back up with the divot they just took out. They would then mark their alcoholic cache by the number of steps downhill from a landmark on top, such as the second brick from the ticketing entrance, or say the fifth fencepost from a certain tree.

With so much alcohol on premises, you'd know that crazy drunken debauchery will be a highlight of ACF. You'd also know that no matter how many port-a-potties they set up, it will never be sufficient to handle the onslaught of people having to pee at any given moment. That's why the preferred urinal is the chain link fence atop the hills surrounding the field - for both boys and girls alike. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of urine generated by the sheer volume of people always turns the soil at the base of the fence into urine mud. Even less fortunate for the people who engage in fights in that area, probably over pissing space or accidental cross-streaming of pee, as they usually end up rolling in that urine mud.

If that isn't enough violence for you, then you can check out the mosh pit just in front of the stage, where people regularly emerge in a bloody mess that makes raw hamburger meat look like a block of tofu. As for me, I preferred to sit and watch from my home camp on the hills, while further down, some incapacitated jackass stripped down naked to everyone's cheering, only to have his audience turn on him by throwing beer at the buck-naked guy as security hauls him away.

So knowing the crazy times that my roommates would go through, I shut myself in my hole and braced for the chaos to come when my roommates come stumbling back from the event.

When I finally emerged to see what damage my roommates have wrought after they have swaggered and verbally slurred their way home and settled down, I was surprised to see that things weren't that bad. I guess it helped that the Community Coordinator gave them a lecture, when he came in to bail me out of locking my own keys in my room. Coming to think of it, I should've locked myself out on purpose long ago to tactfully bring up this issue without being a ratting goody two-shoes. I was impressed...

...until I went to the bathroom and found beer bottles in the shower. Not only that, but I've noticed a sudden drop in my shampoo supply, a freakin' 1.18L family size. I don't mind my roommates using some of my stuff, so long as they ask and I don't tell them to fuck off. If only I could procure some radiotherapy drugs to use as an additive to expose their culpability with tell-tale baldness.

At least it wasn't as bad as last night, when I was going to brush my teeth and noticed the corner of a condom wrapper lying next to my toothbrush and toothpaste. I guess I should be grateful that whoever it was had enough modesty to not display the spent contraceptive there for all to see as a trophy of his sexual conquest. (But then again, such a trophy could be generated without 2nd party assistance...) Thus, I should also be grateful that I didn't have to boil or throw away my dental hygiene implements.

Sadly, I can't be glad that this kind of event happens only once a year, because this kind of shit happens more often than that.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Sweeping The Dead

Yesterday was Qing Ming Festival.

Or 清明節 in Chinese, it is the day when Chinese people go visit the graves of their ancestors because they neglect them the rest of the year. Activities usually include the presentation of offerings and the cleaning of the tombs, mainly by sweeping.

Being Good Friday and the closest holiday to Qing Ming, it was on such an occasion that my mom, uncle, and I went to the good ol' mausoleum to pay Grandma and Grandpa a visit. No, we are not rich enough to afford our own family mausoleum, so my late grandparents have a slot in a wall shared with many other neighbors. For some reason, the mausoleum's permanent residents consist almost solely of Chinese and Italians, so I hope my grandparents have learned to speak Italian since their stay there, although it is kind of amusing to think of them going on language exchange with Mr. and Mrs. Benito Mussolini.

Upon our arrival at the mausoleum, we could see people burning offerings such as hell money in a designated oil drum just outside the main entrance. No, we do not have the same definition of "hell" as Westerners; we basically use "hell" interchangeably with "afterlife". (Coming to think of it, next time that Chinese cab driver tells me to "Go to the hell!", I shouldn't take it so badly.)

Anyway, for those of you who don't know, the Chinese believe that you can give presents to your dead loved ones by burning the paper version of it. Unfortunately, this custom has driven such a lucrative industry that things have gotten pretty out of hand, with paper gold bars, paper cars, paper cellphones, paper iPods, paper pets, paper houses, paper servants and concubines, and even paper Viagra.

Regardless, I no longer see any point in burning hell money, as the ridiculously large denominations (Hell$100,000,000 banknotes, for God's sake!), and the fact that everyone is burning them in huge wads means inflation must be astronomically inconceivable in the afterlife. I can picture Grandpa going, "$75,000,000,000,000,000,000 for a stick of gum!?!? WTF!?!?"

That said, back to my grandparents. Seing how the mausoleum's management has tended to the maintenance of the complex's floors, there was no need to do any sweeping - another tradition that has tragically fallen prey to modern economy and pragmatism. Instead, I wiped the dust from the facestone with a wet wipe, while my mom and uncle cut and arranged fresh flowers to be placed in the attached vase.

Being done before them, and having silently made the necessary communications with my grandparents while cleaning them up, I decided to take a quick tour of the place. Most of the slots on the wall were either occupied, or pre-purchased for future..."moving in". It must suck to be the guy stuck with the section of the wall that has the electrical outlet. I guess they reserve that spot for those who died by electrocution.

I was saddened when I happened upon the resting places of those around my age or younger, who presumably died either of traffic accidents or terminal illness. It was even sadder when I came across the grave of a one year old baby, his grave poignantly adorned with knitted baby booties and teddy bears. It was humbling in the sense that it made me feel fortunate to have made it this far.

Afterwards, my mom and uncle came out with the processed flowers, placed them on the vase, and we made our prayers and took the traditional three bows before my grandparents. The overall experience was rather solemn and grim, but a must in order to pay our respects to our ancestors. I don't think the mausoleum is a place where anyone would want to go - the interior is too bright and well-lit for goths, and the atmosphere is too depressing for everyone else. But then again, such a place really isn't meant for the living, is it?

On the way out, Mom started creeping me out, in the way that Chinese moms always somehow manage to do to their kids. Having bought the slots adjacent to Grandma and Grandpa for the rest of the family, she nonchalantly reminded me how she and I will someday reside next to our grandparents, as if the mausoleum is one big apartment complex. I bit my tongue to stop myself from retorting that if I had to spend eternity, or until the bombs drop, with two generations of Chinese parents (or in-laws to my possible wife) breathing down my neck, it would truly be the Western definition of "hell".

Anyways, that's beside the point - I am immortal.

PS - Sorry I didn't take any photos...God knows if any of the mausoleum's occupants decide to jump in front of my camera and spoil my shot.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Temporal Shift

I properly woke up in the morning for the first time in years.

By "properly", I mean with sufficent sleep time. This wasn't something I was planning to do, as whenever I plan to sleep earlier, something ties me up into the wee hours (Damn those internets!). This time, I just had no choice since I wasn't getting enough sleep. Heck, yesterday, I went through a morning iaido training session all the way in SFU, then I had to drive everyone home - all on three hours of sleep.

It's like being in an alien world where the Sun appears in the east. And now they start having these morning shows like Breakfast Television and the like. I've never felt so displaced here since I came back from my years in Japan.

Speaking of TV shows, now they have these programs where all these bad things happen to all these 80's style people because of other bad people, or when two good people fall in love with the same person. Oh wait, these shows are just the old version of Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, One Tree Hill, Party of Five, Dawson's Creek, The OC, etc., etc. What are they called? Ah yes, operas of the soap.

What's next, marking this special time of the day with a special meal!?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Strange Korean

I've been taking Korean classes lately.

Seeing how I want to make the most of my time before my job starts in September, I've decided to do the things I've always wanted to do, but will never get to do it once I begin work. Learning Korean is one of them, because I love to learn about other languages and cultures, and putting that knowledge to use by communicating and befriending people of various nationalities. Furthermore, my hometown of Coquitlam and the rest of Vancouver now has more Koreans than Korea, and some of them don't even speak any English. Thus, I would surely come across Korean clients, and speaking their language would surely improve me and my firm's relationship with them.

And finally, I love it when people light up like a flaming Christmas tree when they suddenly hear you speak their native tongue.

Right now, after spending weeks on writing and pronunciation, we are finally at the stage where we start learning grammar and how to construct basic sentences. Unfortunately, just making our entrance into the realm of grammar means that our capability to carry out an everyday conversation is wholly inadequate. Therefore, I couldn't help but wince as my class practices the downright weird dialogues from the textbook, which translate to:
A: Is this a book?
B: No.
A: Then what is it?
B: It's a bag.
Or little gems such as this:
A: What is this?
B: It's a bag?
A: Whose is it?
B: It's mine.
A: It's very pretty.
B: Thank you (you insincere dickwad).

Oh, trust me. It sounds stranger in Korean.

Now as a former English teacher myself, I know how difficult it is to produce a normal, everyday conversation for the purpose of illustrating the use of very simple and preliminary grammar points to utter novices. In fact, I'm also guilty of producing a few odd practice conversations myself...but nowhere this bad. But then again, one probably should not write off such verbal exchanges as utterly useless.

After all, I never know when I suddenly find myself engaged in a dialogue with a Korean who has severely impaired cognizance.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Starring...the Law Building!

My residence and the site of my old dorm are situated near the Faculty of Law building.

I used to have so many fond memories of that place. Not as a law student, but as a science student having fun at the expense of law students, particularly when the conduct their evening mock trials in mock courtrooms which ostentatiously sport large windows for all the campus to witness. My old dorm abutted the Law Building through an unlit field, so that at night, if one were to wear dark clothing and lay in that field, he would be completely invisible to the parties engaged in their mock trial from inside their brightly-lit mock courtroom.

And that was what some of us once did...brandishing a pellet gun. Occasionally, the hidden assailant would fire a round into the window of the room where the mock trial is in progress. Being so large, the windows were an easy target, and of course, our pellet gun wasn't powerful enough to damage them.

However, they did manage to emit a loud WHACK! whenever they made contact. This was loud enough to scare the crap out of all the lawyer wannabes inside, who would then proceed towards the window to determine the cause of the disruption, the forensic experts that they are. Tempted as we were, we never fired another round as they were coming near the window, lest they realize that the report is man-made, and not some rogue crow, squirrel, raccoon, or drunk frat boy.

Well now that my old dorm has been torn down, those law students can finally conduct their mock trials in peace - to the sound of jackhammers, backhoes, and bulldozers as newer and more overpriced housing is built in its place.

So today, I passed by the law building on my way home to find that it has been altered by TV production crew, a staple presence when you have a beautiful campus, into a hospital of all things. I don't know what TV show would ever conceive of the Law Building as being a hospital given its oddly geometric design, so it must be for some weird sci-fi program like Supernatural or something.

But here's the thing: Does anyone else see the irony of having ambulances coming to a building occupied by lawyers?

Law Building cum hospital.  Cum...heheheh...
A lawyer's dream come true - a place where potential
clients come to them instead.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Happy Year Of The Piggy!!!

恭喜發財, 心想事成, 萬事如意, 龍馬精神, and things of that nature.

And if all that above comes out a garbled mess, then your computer's broken and you need to throw it out. Well, if you don't know Chinese, it'll probably still look like a garbled mess to you, in which case you need to throw out your computer anyway just to be safe.

For some, Chinese New Year is a time to get together with the family, have dinner, and buy lots of crap. For me though, I take CNY as an opportunity to educate my friends on Chinese culture (and all the delicious foods that come with it). And to buy lots of crap. I take this extra step because I simply love to contribute to the multicultural education of others, and because I somehow feel obligated to show them that there is more to Chinese people than rudenss, awful driving, and pennypinching behavior.

Conversely, all this crap-buying is mainly because Chinese New Year, like any new year, represents a new beginning, so out with the old and in with the new; some would even believe that by discarding the old stuff, one would also discard the misfortune associated with it during its use. This could include buying new clothes, perhaps new food to restock the fridge, new furnishings and appliances, and if you're a rich Honger or Mainlander, a new house and mistress.

Furthermore, you're supposed to start a new beginning by cleaning the house and sweeping out the bad luck from the previous year. However, if you're one of the aforementioned rich people who buy a new house every year (and actually live in it), that is not necessary, as you can either sell the old house, or burn it down and build a new one on top. Or if you're like me, who would rather deal with the ill fortune rather than to invest the time and effort to clean up my shithole.

Cultural note aside, I spent last night doing what I said I do every CNY, and introduced my friends to my culture at a party at one of my friends' place - through delicious foods like the octagonal party plate full of fried pastries and candied foods sweet enough to dissolve teeth, pan-fried turnip cake, and new year cake, which my Japanese friends recognized as mochi. Unfortunately, everyone came so late that by the time I was done cooking them the turnip cake, taking a well-earned break, and preparing the new year cake, they were ready to leave, so a lot of them missed out on the new year cake. Oh well, their loss and more for me.

And so I begin The Year of the Pig by hogging all the new year cake.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My Bullshit Valentine

It's that dreaded time of the year again.

But I'm not going to go on the usual annual rant about how Valentine's Day is another fabrication of greeting card and confection companies to generate more business just before their fiscal years to make profit targets, because...well, it's not completely true. Like most Christian holidays, the date was likely set to cover up Pagan holidays; in this case, Lupercalia. So instead, let's just briefly attack the reasoning behind it.

Valentine's Day. The day we're supposed to express our love to the people we love, or at least supposed to love anyways. Why does a special day need to be set for such an occasion? Because we don't sufficiently express love during the rest of the year because we still live in a prudishly conservative society (oh well, at least we're still not as bad as some other countries)? Or is it because we need a break from tearing at each other's throats all the time?

And are we properly expressing our love and devotion by giving sweet, sweet diabetes in a heart-shaped box, paired with a dozen toxic roses made at the expense of third-world sweatshop laborers' health? I guess nothing has changed after all - we're all still trying to kill each other.

After reading my other rant, you're probably just blaming this on my bitterness of being single, so for your information, I'm quite content with having no significant other to hinder my physical, mental, and spiritual development, which I'm pretty well occupied with thank you very much indeedy. Yeah, that's my story and I'm sticking to it, bitches.

Besides, the kind of girl I'm looking for is rarer than a yeti (and hopefully prettier too). I can be a faithful and loving soulmate for the rest of my life and not see anyone else. It's a tall order to get a guy not to cheat until the day he takes that long dirt nap, but I know I can do it. It's just that she'd better damn well be worth it. Maybe someone like her or her.

Yeah, associating myself with girls carrying sharp objects runs a high risk of emasculation, but I guess I'm a glutton for dangerous adventure and self-punishment for failing to please my mate. Like I just said, I'm a strong proponent of self-development, so I don't take failure lightly. Furthermore, just because I've found my significant other doesn't mean I'll stop making myself stronger in all respects; I will not let anyone encumber or stop me.

Anyways, from the bottom of my heart, Happy Wednesday.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A Hard Week's Training

This must be another record.

I've spent a total of 13.5 hours of martial arts training this week - 7.5 hours of iaido, 3 hours of another style of iaido I'm trying out, and 3 hours of capoeira (and not counting that 1 hour of music class). I know this isn't much for people who are really into martial arts, but for me, that's a lot.

Combine it with the time I've spent in the gym and that's probably 17 hours of physical training, which is unprecedented for an amateur like me. Oh well, once my job begins, this isn't going to be possible without totally sacrificing my weekends, so I might as well get it done while I still can.

Gotta get that summer body ready...and crawl into a corner in the fetal position and cry.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Singled-Out Sushi

There I was in another weekly solo foray into late nite all-you-can-eat sushi.

Like any Chinese-run establishment, the restaurant focused more on optimizing customer turnover rather than customer service. Therefore, to make sure that they fill all the seats, they arranged all the tables in my section into single-table-two-chair configurations to accomodate all the couples coming in. The problem is, I was the only person in this section dining across an empty chair.

I don't mind. I've been singled out all my life.

When I was in elementary school, and when we were playing any sport in PE class that requred two designated team captains to pick their team members, I was always the last kid chosen. Well, "chosen" isn't really the best choice of words since I was the last person remaining, so "very reluctantly stuck with" is probably more appropriate diction. Furthermore, whenever an activity requires all students to form pairs or whatever certain size of groups, I was always the one singled out. So by now, I've really stopped giving two shits about it.

Besides, having another person with me in an all-you-can-eat session will slow me down. It's harder to find a table for even two when the restaurant is crowded, whereas if I'm alone, I can nearly always find a seat at the sushi bar. Ordering food would be slower because as I go over each item in the order form, I'll have to check my eating partner whether or not she wants that dish and if so, how many.

Worst of all, dining with another person wastes valuable eating time because I'll have to do things with her like talk to her. Dammit, last call is at 11:30PM and I'm trying to get the most food for my money! I have no time to talk about crap like What's-Her-Name that you met at the mall and how she's gotten fat and bitter over the years, the latest designer brands, relationships, or your periods. I am busy trying to keep myself alive and well by EATING.

I'm not being antisocial - it's just that a strong and fierce lone wolf travels the fastest and gets the whole prey.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Fix Or Repair Daily

Don't buy American cars!

My iaido senior's roommate is this crazy Hungarian dude ("I cut those gypsies!"). Yet, he's a cool guy, and as a former mechanic, he knows cars in and out. Also, if I ever need a getaway driver, it would probably be him.

Anyways, he was riding in my Ford to my senpai's place when he noticed the engine temperature gauge needle dangerously tickling the red zone. He immediately told me to pull over and pointed it out to me. I was probably minutes or even seconds away from burning out my engine. We then had to wait until the engine cooled down to a manageable level before resuming our journey.

So the entire trip back to my senpai's house was pretty much an excruciating game of hopscotch - driving a couple of km's, pulling over and waiting for the engine to cool, then resuming another couple of km's before pulling over again. Fortunately, it was a cold day, so the engine didn't take so long to chill once we popped the hood open. If it was a hot summer day, this just wouldn't happen, and I'd have to call a BCAA tow truck.

When we finally made it to our destination, we popped open the hood and gave a closer examination with a flashlight. We realized that for some odd reason, the coolant was alarmingly empty. It was getting close to midnight, so I hopscotched to the nearest gas station that was still open for some coolant.

Now the problem should've been solved at that point, right? Perhaps with an import car, but then again, this problem may not have occurred at all in the first place. Unfortunately, I drive a "homegrown" piece of North American crap. Not only did the engine still overheat, but now I have to deal with scalding hot coolant geysering out of the coolant intake compartment like Ol' Faithful. This could only mean the cooling system is clogged and the coolant isn't circulating, so I'll have to leave my car at my senpai's and call the BCAA tow truck the next morning to take it to the mechanic.

So why are American cars so crappy? Why have they not only distanced themselves from being associated with quality for the past few decades, but also allowed foreign competitors to take over, despite the automobile industry being pioneered by Americans?

To me, the root of the issue is simple - an automobile is a complex machine. It consists of hundreds, if not thousands of moving parts which require assembly with utmost care and precision in order for all those parts to function together in a coordinated fashion as a whole unit. Only machines are capable of consistently and reliably delivering such care and precision.

The Japanese realized this, and that is why they say there are more robots in a Toyota car factory than there are in the rest of the Earth. The Americans, on the other hand, see such automation as a threat to the jobs of their workers and their families' livelihoods. That is why they still insist on putting together a good portion of their cars by hand. That is why they form unions to twist the car companies' arms to ensure that they still put together a good portion of their cars by hand. And that is why the Japanese automobile industry have overtaken the Americans in quality and profitability since the 70's.

Why can't the American labourer see that the automation of the automobile manufacturing process can also open up a lot more jobs? After all, machines need repair, maintenance, programming, upgrading, installation, monitoring, and parts purchasing. You don't really think that in the Toyota factory, they just sit back with their conbini onigiri and sip sake while waiting for those robots to churn out Camrys and RAV4's, do you?

I guess it's just that people are resistant to change because they associate the security of routine in their old jobs with the security of employment. Nevertheless, it's sadly ironic that by trying so desperately to cling onto their old jobs, they do otherwise by hastening the demise of their industry. After all, why go on strike to keep your old jobs when you'll be laid off anyway, once your company is no longer profitable enough to afford to keep you?

I'd like to see them hopscotch to work in my Ford.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I See Dead People

I got up at freakin' 5AM this morning.

Because it was sold out during the good hours, me and some friends had to settle for the wee morning to check out the Bodyworlds 3 Exhibit (What happened to the first two?). This exhibit and its treatment of dead bodies has generated much controversy, particularly from Bible-thumpers and other religious rabble-rousing groups. But then again, The Church has always been hindering scientific progress with their accusations of heresy, so it isn't surprising. That such is the desire of the cadavers' previous owners is probably the only reason such an exhibit is happening at all.

Personally, I think this is a wonderful educational tool because, unlike the next best thing which is actual dissection, these corpses can be displayed over and over again in their plastinated state instead of requiring burial. Each body was presented artistically with beauty, grace, and dignity, yet they allow the observer to clearly see its anatomical configuration and how each body part contributes to its pose and function.

Too bad none of the exhibits could explain why my back suddenly got so damn itchy while viewing the Nervous System section of the exhibit. Or why it always seem to happen in the most awkward spot where you cannot reach. To make things worse, I still had my heavy coat on because I couldn't find the coat check, and even if I did, it would probably cost money. It was totally driving me nuts, so I was at my wit's end in utilizing my innovative faculties to come up with an immediate means to kill this itch.

That was when my eyes widened epiphanically at the arm of one of the exhibits, whose fingers were curled up in a rather effective scratching position.

I suppose it would not be an act of desecration, since the deceased had donated her body for philanthropic reasons, it would surely include her anatomical gift being used to relieve someone of their torment. In the end, I wisely decided against it because I didn't want my fascinating time to prematurely end by being hauled out by security. Instead, I managed to find a nice protruding corner of the wall to cat-rub against.

Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed in the exhibit. Instead, I've found more than enough photos to give you an idea in the official website.

No problem, glad I could lend a hand!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy 2007!!!

It's finally arrived!

Another end to another year. It felt only like yesterday that I joined some high school buddies to raid the party at the house of some guy I don't know. Wow, time really does fly, but it only seems to fly when people think only about Point A and Point B in time, and not of all that happened in between.

And a lot certainly happened between this and the last entry, but once again, I haven't been updating. My excuse this time is that I've been battling a nasty Christmas flu. It seems to be an annual tradition now. I was hoping I'd be immune to flus and colds, as I've pretty much caught every possible strain of them.

But being violently ill did have its good points. All that hacking and coughing to clear my lungs have scared away whatever roommates that are left who initially decided not to spend the holidays at their respective families' homes. One even had the courtesy to clean up the kitchen before he left, and now I have this place all to myself and it's not getting messier anymore! Shit is no longer piling up in the kitchen, dishes are no longer being left all over the place, and a roll of my hard-bought toilet paper is not being eaten up each and every single day like popcorn!

With the New Year starting on such a good note, I wish everyone the trifecta of good wishes - Health, Happiness, and Prosperity!

I guess one out of three isn't so bad...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Overloaded And Overdosed

This exam was for the toughest course in my final term.

Yup, good ol' Advanced Financial Accounting. A course of unprecedented difficulty merits unprecedented measures. Not only was I going to require the (legal) performance enhancement of an energy drink, but TWO energy drinks. I went to the campus pharmacy and chose the Rock Star brand of energy drinks because it was cheaper than Red Bull and because in 500mL cans, it was also in greater quantities. Okay, so a liter of energy drink might sound over the top, but according to this
website, it would take 74.65 cans of it to kill me, so I was well within the fatal limit.

I took my seat in the examination room, proudly standing my two not-so-secret weapons before me, feeling rather brazenly confident that I'm well-prepared. The professor walked in with a young man who was aptly sporting a fedora, and annouced that due to a meeting, he must be absent for most of the exam and invigilating in his place will be his son, the aforementioned gentleman crowned like a certain whip-cracking archaeologist.

It was then that my classmate sitting above me noticed my Rock Stars and suggested to me that beer would've been a better examination potable; even though it relaxes you, if you can get a 50% pass on an exam piss-drunk, then they should give you another 50%. Yeah, brilliant idea. The last thing I need is to get shit-faced, jump on the table with my shirt off and twisted into a rat-tail and snapping it around like a whip, all the while slurring out to the invigilator, "Heeeyy Indiaaaana Joooones!! NA-NA-NA-NA! NA-NA-NA!!!"

The exam started not long afterwards, and so I cracked open my first can and took a few swigs. I felt very good, and the burst in caffeine-initiated energy gave me the confidence to tackle the deluge of information contained in the financial statements that come with the questions. I was on fire, consolidating subsidiary with parent company financials and restating foreign subsidiary amounts into local currencies left and right as easily as if I was eating popcorn.

A few of questions later, the side-effects of the caffeine kicked in.

My body started feeling cold, my hands were already starting to shake, and I had already taken a couple of bathroom trips generously accorded by Indiana Jones. I could feel myself slowing down and the questions were starting to seem longer. There was only one thing I could do to mitigate the situation - crack open the other can of Rock Star.

For a moment, all was better again, and I was breezing through the next set of questions. But it was inevitable that by the last question, my writing has become rather erratic and uncontrollable and I was breaking into cold sweat, to the percussion of my kidneys throbbing under the dehydration and diuretic stress. I was probably fortunate to have put the two cans of Rock Star visibly before me, as Indiana Jones probably thus acknowledged my situation and kindly allowed me two more bathroom runs. While I was frantically writing the last question, even resorting to using my other hand to stabilize my writing hand, I noticed a caveat on the can at the corner of my eye.

Do not exceed 500mL per day.

Although shocked to the extent that half the class heard my "Oh shit," I figured that now that I'm already half-way through the second can, I might as well take it all the way so that I can finish off this last question. Besides, it will take 72.65 more cans to die and if I don't do this again, the damage would surely not be permanent.

That did nothing other than to make my writing more like a preschooler's, and my kidneys scream louder for clemency. Furthermore, whenever your body temperature is down, drinking an ice-cold drink, even an energy drink, does not help. At this point, I have totally decided to forsake whatever residual performance enhancement and madly chug down my sports bottle of water (which despite the folly of my actions thus far, I was wise enough to bring).

I left the exam with the feeling that I've missed something important during my struggle with my metabolic maelstrom, which was corroborated by a post-examination chat with the professor. Let that be a lesson to you all to read the fine print before consuming anything that messes with your bodily processes.

I hope I did well on the exam because now I need an organ donor.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Another Crappy Campus Blackout

Here I am unnecessarily taking refuge in my parents' house.

Last night, the power went out all over campus. Again. Although this doesn't happen often in the absolute sense, it's still intolerably frequent as far as campus-wide power outages are concerned - whether or not it is planned by Plant Operations. I think it's because UBC is stubbornly maintaining their own power utilities, rather than using the apparently more reliable municipal power grid. I guess it's the University desperately trying to establish itself as an independent community where knowledge can flourish...all sponsored by Coca-Cola.

Well, so much for that idea; this is the second time this has happened to me, and at the worst time. It's snowing and cold outside, and the last thing we need is our lighting and heating dying on us. Once again, the building right across the parking lot from me, which runs on the city power grid, is bright, warm, and laughing at us.

This morning, I realized the power was still dead because I woke up to sub-zero temperatures. Thank God I took that candlelit shower before bed, as the hot water was surely gone by the morning. Without power to the computer or the internet servers, I had nothing else to do but roam around outside. With the campus shut down, it was a ghost town out there and the perfect opportunity to take some scenic photos of the white landscape without annoying people getting in the way.

When I came back after a highly productive photography run, the power was still dead. With little hope that power will be restored before the campus residents die of hypothermia, I decided to bus all the way back to my parents' house to ride out this infrastructural disaster. The bus was well away into the trip when my neighbor called me.

The power went back on.

Go figure. These two words pretty much sum up my life. Upon hearing the news, I felt like the whole campus held a huge party after I left. These kinds of things happen so often and so consistently that I would not be wrong to think that power was restored because I left campus. Yeah, that's it. I selflessly and stoically left campus so everyone can have their power and heating back.

I took it for the team.

Snowy forest in front of the SUB
More powdery white stuff than a celebrity house party.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

First Snow Of The Season

The campus blanketed in white and silence.

That was the sight which greeted me when I left the library after after working on my IT project. I know it does snow occasionally in Vancouver amongst the rain, but I didn't expect it to happen so soon.

I didn't know which surprised me more as I breached the door into a world that has changed; the abrupt serenity of the Earth relentlessly forcing its deaf silence upon those who roam its white expanse, or the sudden loudness of my thoughts finding themselves desperately trying to assert their presence lest they become muted.

I walked home quietly struggling.

Night Prowler of Koerner Library
Those who roam the snowy night in front of Koerner Library.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Never Live In A Quad (Or With Anyone, For That Matter)

I've about had it with these people.

Today has been one of too many times I had to empty out all the clean dishes from the dishwasher, because everyone else is too "busy" do so, leaving all the dirty dishes to pile up beyond the sink over to the counters. But this is only the tip of the dirty iceberg.

Like the rest of my roommates, the engineering guy is really cool personality-wise, but tidiness-wise, not quite so. But what really annoys me is how he uses our quad living room as a Motel 6 for his drunk friends, with whom he throws shit like instant noodle packages and Kraft Dinner cheese packets all over the place. I'd kick their asses, but that would hurt my relationship with the people I have to live with for the rest of the year. Also, they're too drunk to feel any pain, which would detract from the punitive value of an ass-kicking.

I know they all have to go drinking every weekend, but if they can't even make it back to their own respective place of habitation, a change in drinking habits is in order. We are already doing a good job fucking the place up, and we certainly don't need further contributions from outside parties!

The blond girl, she can be just as all of the drunk friends put together. It's nice that she bakes herself a cake once in a while (Bake, bitch, BAKE!! Mwahahahaha!), but then she leaves all the baking utensils, ingredients, and stains sacrosanct all over the fucking counter. Put her and the above together, and you have absolute bedlam; the living room would look better if an all-out rival ninja clan battle scene broke out in there instead. Hell, if one happened right now, the living room could only end up cleaner.

Finally, the opera singer is the least messiest of them - perhaps only because he isn't home much in the first place to mess it up. However, he still does leave remnants of his morning rituals on the kitchen counter to add to everyone else's mess, which would stay there until he comes home late at night - if he chooses to clean it up when he comes back.

Thus, what makes it difficult to get my roommates to clean up is that they're rarely in at the same time, so I can't get everyone together to clean it all up at once and get it over with. Instead, I have to go after each person like some cleanliness gestapo. The only mitigating factor is that they do manage to clean things up when I ask them to, but I can't come home and face this shit anymore.

I really have to vent here. I want to move out into my own studio apartment, but then I'll have to clean up the WHOLE place first, i.e. THEIR mess. I'm really tempted to just say fuckit and give up my security deposit altogether if it means I won't have to clean up the place only to have it revert to its chaotic state in a matter of hours, an act of futility that can only be metaphorically summarized by Wile E. Coyote putting up a tiny umbrella against a falling anvil.

Even though the first round of roommates was really nice and tidy, they will eventually move out, and new messy roommates will come in so that things will eventually degrade to this state. The Second Law of Thermodynamics holds truest - the entropy of the universe is always increasing, all will deteriorate to a natural state of chaos. If you cannot learn from example, then at least heed this scientific proof that you should never to live in a quad. Unless you enjoy cleaning up other people's messes.

Well, I'll just have to do the next best thing - incite an inter-clan feud between a bunch of ninjas.